The Eyes of the Dragon is Stephen King’s most notable foray into the genre of literature for young readers. It was originally written for his daughter, who was thirteen at the time and had no interest in reading the stories that had made King successful in the realm of horror. This story is, instead, a tale of high sword and sorcery fantasy, with a plot that centers around the royal family and throne of a kingdom. However, in writing this book, King doesn’t entirely shed the style of writing that fans have come to love in his horror books. The villain of the story is quite scary, and King’s descriptions of various situations have a tense air of suspense that is not present in the writing of other, more light-hearted, fantasy authors. It is fantasy not for the faint-of-heart.
The story is the tale of a kingdom, but primarily the tale of the two brothers who are the princes of that kingdom. They are as different as night and day, with one being the typical courageous, handsome, confident prince central to most fairy tales and the other being…not that. The younger prince lives always in the shadow of the older brother, and this causes an inner conflict in him which may strike a chord with children and teens who read this novel.
In addition to the two princes, the cast of supporting characters are also well-characterized, and many of them are heroic, cowardly, good, evil, comical, or sensible in a way that makes them easy to enjoy reading about. Part of what makes King such a good horror writer is that he makes the reader care about his characters and the horrific things that are happening to them, and that skill translates well into a fantasy setting, where the reader finds that they care very much about everyone from the king of the realm to the lowly butler because each seem so genuine.
This book is well worth the time invested to read it, and that time flies by.
Profanity/Language: 15 religious exclamations; 21 mild obscenities; 3 derogatory names; 6 scatological words.
Note: “God” is used to refer to a person, “hell” to refer to a place, or “damnation” to refer to a state of being several times, and “bitch” is used to refer to a female dog (all not tallied).
Violence/Gore: Report of people throwing food at each other; joke about shooting someone with an arrow; an adult swats a child on the backside to make him move; a child makes up stories involving fantasy violence (pirates, soldiers, dragons); a character considers poisoning another; a character considers ways to kill another without getting caught; an adult shakes a child threateningly; a character considers killing several others and eating one of their hearts; character has repeated nightmares of watching someone die; an animal is turned to stone; several verbal threats; a character threatens another with a knife; report of street brawls; a character punches another; an animal is stunned by magic; a few brief mentions of animal abuse; a somewhat graphic list of what health ailments can affect a wounded horse is given; a character prepares to put an injured animal out of its misery; report of a character killed by choking while eating; several reports of historical civil unrest, war, murders, and heads displayed on spikes; report of natural disaster with property damage and people killed; report of past monarch drinking blood; a book is bound in human skin; a table is topped with human skin; report of past bear-baiting; a father punches his son and threatens to throw him out; a man is beaten by a mob without serious injury; mention that a dog might “burst its heart” if made to run too long; a character falls into frozen water and others try to save her; fantasy violence scene in which a monster is killed; a murder that is central to the plot is mentioned many times after it happens; a teen fights a mob without serious injury; a character is blinded by magic; a creepy scene in which a character is sleep-walking; creepy scene where a character is approached by a shadowy figure; a magical poison has the effect of burning its victims (human and animal) from the inside out, and this is described or referred back to few times with little gore; a child is whipped as discipline; character dies of a heart attack; character takes an agonizing magical cure, and his screams and pain are described; a character threatens to commit suicide a couple of times; a character uses his blood for ink; a fist-fight results in broken bones, bad cuts, and much blood; a scary scene where a character is swarmed by bats; a character is shot by an arrow in the eye; a character has a dream with great amount of blood; a character cuts his arm during a fall; scary scene in which a character puts an axe into another’s head and threatens others, with the blood described; character eats a monster’s heart raw as part of a hunting celebration; a man injures his wife during sex (no details about the act or the injury, just that it happened); a door is destroyed by magic; a child stones a helpless animal to death; a character is killed during childbirth, with blood described.
Sex/Nudity: The frequency of intimate activity within a marriage is discussed; character takes a magic potion as an aphrodisiac a few times; mention that royal lines are “inbred”; mention of girls “sighing and giggling” over a boy; a character urinates while another watches (he does not know he’s being watched); mention that a girl has “caught a boys’ eye”; mention is made of the “act that puts a baby in a woman’s belly” a few times; characters write and exchange love letters (contents not shown); a character opens his bathrobe to show off his naked body (he does not know anyone is watching); a teen and a parent discuss that the teen likes a girl; that narrator makes a brief mention about cultural views on sex; a man injures his wife during sex (no details about the act or the injury, just that it happened); report of a character dropping live fish down the front of women’s dresses; brief scene in which couple prepares for sex on their wedding night, with mention of the man’s “erect penis” and metaphorical talk of the act that is going to happen (sex is implied to follow but not described); a brief bedroom scene with a married couple and few details; a character sings a bawdy song about kissing women; characters flirt verbally a few times; characters kiss a few times.
Mature Subject Matter:
Death (parent, spouse); sibling rivalry; civil unrest; government corruption; false conviction; suicide (considered); bribery; alcoholism and addiction.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Characters use magical potions as medical remedies, to cure nervousness, and as sleeping aids and aphrodisiacs; adults drink beer, wine, and liquor; a child drinks wine frequently to the point of alcoholism; gin is offered to a child; various poisons and their effects are described, and some are used; characters are frequently drunk; an adult pours mead over children’s heads at a celebration; characters smoke pipes and cigars; a dog drinks wine.